Faith Encouraged and Shared

Faith Encouraged and Shared

By Michelle Brown, Youth Leader at Walnut Creek United Methodist Church

My name is Michelle Brown and I am beginning my second year as youth director for Walnut Creek United Methodist Church. I have spent most of my adult life as a teacher from pre-school to Middle School and have always known that my passion was working with youth. I have had much success as an educator but have to say that this past year sharing in these young people’s spiritual journey has been by far the most engaging and meaningful.

For several years as a member of WCUMC I sat in the congregation watching the youth on “SSP Sunday” share their tales of service, friendship and fun wishing that I had been offered such an opportunity at their age. As the new youth director, I knew of SSP through the kids and adults who had attended in the past and I was ready to experience the adventure for myself. Of course I had expectations but my actual experience this past summer was so amazing I cannot even remember what those expectations were. I have been an educator my entire adult life and like most teachers I have met some spectacular kids but nothing like the youth that led our sessions in Chiloquin, Oregon and Los Angeles, California.

The staff was so patient and to say they were passionate seems an understatement. They work tirelessly to make sure each kid is supported and encouraged to not only participate in the service work, but to grow and connect with the other youth and adults. The fellowship created at SSP is like no other I have experienced. To watch my kids nervously pile into the van and drive 6 hours to unknown parts to be with unknown people and leave a week later in tears of joy having made life long connections was priceless. There was never any question for any of them if they wanted to return this year. The only question was “where should we go this time?.”  We slept, ate, worked and played as a team. No one was ever left out or pressured to participate. It was a safe environment that fostered uniqueness and camaraderie. As a lifetime teacher I can without hesitation say that this does not happen often if at all among Middle School or High School students, especially when the only common denominator is the idea of serving others. It was truly a magical experience to observe. If that was the only gift I received at SSP it would be worth my time to do again and again, but I as an adult was given the same opportunity for connection. At the end of both trips, I was validated again and again by students who happily jumped in the van to paint and scrape in the heat every morning. The closing ceremony for me was emotional and healing. The Middle School students each took turns addressing each person on our work team. I was completely filled with praises not only for my humor and safe driving skills, but for being dependable, a good role model, a positive coach and cheerleader for our team and their new “second mom”. At the High School closing ceremony the students were asked to anonymously touch someone who had inspired, encouraged, or had been a positive role model among other things. Each time my head was touched my heart swelled. I was forever changed. As an adult this kind of validation is invaluable and I can only imagine what it did for my kids sitting in that circle. These are seeds of acceptance and love that will continue to grow for all of us.

So why did I sign up to be a donor? I consider this to be one of the best investments in the lives of our young people. Fears faced and conquered, faith encouraged and shared, confidence increased, friends and connections made, feelings of usefulness through service work for others magnified and all of it run through the hearts and souls of other young adults willing to take on a leadership role in this amazing program. Kudos to you SSP and I only wish I had more to give. I am blessed to have found a place with the youth in our church and getting to experience and share SSP with them is icing on the proverbial cake.

Editor’s Note: Please join Michelle and the 88 other 12xSSP Donors who make recurring gifts each month through their bank account or debit/credit card. Our goal is to grow this group by 40 donors by February 13. Become a 12xSSP Donor.

89 12xSSP Monthly Donors

89 12xSSP Monthly Donors

There are countless reasons why people love and support Sierra Service Project. One powerful way that people show their love and support of SSP is by making automatic, monthly donations. Currently, 89 of you are part of our 12xSSP Monthly Recurring Donation Program. 12xSSP donors gave a total of $27,484 last year in amounts ranging from $5 to $125 per month. To commemorate SSP’s 40th anniversary, we are hoping to sign up 40 new 12xSSP donors. Please consider giving $40 per month. To our current 12xSSP donors, we sincerely thank you for all you have enabled SSP to do.
In Service of Others

In Service of Others

By Katherine Anderer-DiMichele, Student at Cleveland State University

Mahatma Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” In December, my fellow classmantes and I traveled from Cleveland State University in Ohio, to serve for a week in South Los Angeles with SSP.

We worked with the Vermont Square Community Garden, where we tore down an existing shade structure and then rebuilt a bigger, more functional gathering area. The Garden is a cornerstone to the members of the community. We were lucky enough to meet and listen to Tamiko Nakamura, the garden’s president, as well as taste test some products of the garden; my favorite was the raw sugar cane.

Our visit to Homeboy Industries and our tour of LA gave us a glimpse in the city’s diversity and dynamics. After our work days we enjoyed making meals and playing games with the SSP staff. I enjoyed working in the garden and learning about South LA, and I will never forget my experience through Sierra Service Project.

Editor’s Note: Alternative Breaks can be scheduled at your group’s request. Weekends of Service are also being hosted in the coming months in Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.

Seek Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly

Seek Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly

By Michelle Rehfield, Summer Staff 2002-08, from Riviera United Methodist Church

My first SSP summer experience spoke to me on several levels and stuck with me in ways that are difficult to explain. I still remember the work we did in 1996, replacing the plywood and installing vinyl flooring in an elder, Georgiana’s, home. I loved the trust and responsibility we were given, the community that we built that week, the glimpse into our host’s community that was so different than my own. These things planted seeds in me that I continue to recognize in my adult life.

I went on to become a staff member and then a counselor for SSP. I became a teacher at a small non-profit school in rural North Carolina and am now studying to become a nurse. Learning to commune with and care for people inside the margins is how I live my ministry in today’s world. Each summer that I participated in SSP filled me up, brought to light questions about the world and our relationships with each other, and lit a fire in me in new and exciting ways.

I love that SSP does this for youth, counselors, staff and people in the host communities each summer. I am thrilled to be a 12xSSP monthly recurring donor to support SSP’s work, with youth and adults alike, to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly.

Editor’s Note: We love our 12xSSP donorsJoin this group of over 100 people who are on track to provide $45,000 in annual income for SSP in 2016.


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  • Found the @sspchiloquin2018 Spiritual Life Coordinator and @ssptsaile2018 Site Director at Wellesley College outside of Boston! Cesca and Emma are travelling a long ways to lead youth and adult volunteers this summer.
  • We had a great time representing SSP at Bishop O'Dowd High School yesterday during their annual service fair! Thanks to all who came out to talk with us. DM us to invite SSP to your school's fair, and visit the link in our bio to learn more about volunteering this summer!
  • Thanks Brentwood Community United Methodist Church for your serving hands last Saturday at #SSPrancho! #VolunteerSSP @cityofrc

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